TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Tucson has a reputation as a city that welcomes refugees, but many of those newcomers will need to speak English to really build lives here.
Tucson really is an international community and becoming more so with the arrival of Afghan and possibly Haitian refugees, so how do they prepare to function in the city of Tucson? A lot of that comes down to a program at Pima Community College.
Recent events have us thinking about refugees from Afghanistan and Haiti but Tucson has become home to so many people speaking so many languages, instructors often have start out with a lot of pictures and gestures to ease students into speaking English.
PCC Refugee Program coordinator Sara Haghighi says, “We have 32 languages spoken in our program, and we can't possibly speak all those languages and our teachers are trained to provide training to students regardless of their native language.”
Some refugees may arrive with limited education. Some may be doctors or have other advanced degrees. Many Afghan refugees left their home country because they served as English translators for the U.S. military. They may speak English but need help reading and writing it.
Haghighi says, “A lot of the time, family members, especially women, didn't get the opportunity to receive formal education and they may not even be literate in their native language.”
The Arizona Department of Economic Security pays for the language training. The goal is to have refugees able to hold down jobs after six months of instruction. Some may move on to the equivalent of a High School diploma or get a college degree.
Haghighi says as many as 500 Afghans may arrive in November. They’ll range from adults to very young children, and many will use PCC’s program as a foundation for their new lives.
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